Help me brainstorm marketing 'gimmicks'

weedyacresJune 18, 2012

We've had our house listed FSBO/3% to buyer's agent for about a month. I emailed all the local realtors (700+ agents) with info on the property and a link to our website. We've had a few calls and emails from agents and a couple showings (weren't expecting lots of traffic since it's in the upper tier of the local market, which is selling about 1/month in our zip code).

I want to do another email blast to the RE agents, and continue to do so regularly, though not annoyingly so, so they'll keep our property in mind if they've got a suitable buyer. But I don't just want to regurgitate property info, I want some kind of a hook. Here are a couple ideas we've come up with. Your feedback on them, as well as additional ideas would be great.

1. "Free Tractor" as the headline, with the details saying if you buy the house we'll throw in a tractor to mow the 3.5 acres.

2. Offer a bumped-up commission for a limited time, like 3.5% if you show our house in the next 2 weeks and the buyer makes an offer.

We've also got an upscale golf course up the street from us that's hosting a week-long PGA National Tour (as I understand it, it's like the minor leagues for the PGA Tour). So lots of local golf afficianadoes are expected to attend, and they might be the type that would be interested in our house, or have friends who are. They will all drive by our house. Other than the professional sign out front, any other ideas to catch people's attention? We've thought of putting the tractor out front with a "Free Tractor" sign on it. Or dressing Mr. Weedy in a chicken suit to hand out flyers. :-)

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1. I'd be careful about putting the tractor out with a "Free Tractor" sign on it. Somebody might come along with a truck and scoop it up.

2. We did something similar, and offered a fixed amount incentive to the Buyer's agent if settlement occurred by a certain date. Did not happen though.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 9:28PM
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I thought the tractor offer was not a good idea--for another reason, it reminds the buyer of all the work needed to maintain the property. That may not make a difference to many buyers, but for others? it could cause second thoughts. Now if you were offering a hot tub, some kind of luxory....

A friend did offer a $1000 bounty (additional commission) to the agent who brought the buyer who bought their home--they sold pretty quickly.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 9:37PM
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When I was trying really hard to sell my house, I was also trying to think of marketing gimmicks. In the end, none of my gimmicks were anywhere near as impressive as I had thought they would be.

I was offering a free lawn tractor that was only 3 months old. Nobody was impressed. Just as well - the tractor had some kind of factory defect, and the engine block cracked wide open. Glad I never had anyone buy the house expecting a free tractor, because I would have had to go out and buy another one. Also glad they didnt buy the house and then the tractor blew up on them. I was also including a free pool table that I had paid $4200 for - again, nobody was impressed. They were smart enough to figure out I no longer wanted it because I didn't get the use out of it, and they didn't want a huge table taking up all that space either. I still ended up giving the pool table away for free, but that wasn't what sold the house.

When it comes to selling a house, it is all about PRICE. Give people a bargain, and it will be sold in no time. I kept trying to compete with the other sellers by keeping my house priced the same or even a little higher than them. Then I finally woke up and realized I had to undercut them to stand a chance. I cut my price so that I was about $25k less than other houses I saw as competition. I got a sale in 6 weeks. Although it was hard to do, and I did have to take a loss, it feels so good to finally have that all behind me.

Forget about gimmicks - if you aren't getting the traffic you were hoping for, maybe its time to look at your price.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 10:54PM
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OH I almost forgot - There was a time where I was getting so desperate to sell I even was willing to take care of the lawn mowing at the old house for one season. Not paying a landscape guy to do it - but ME doing it with my own tractor I would have to haul back and forth! Whew! Am I ever glad that gimmick never went prime-time, and never resulted in a sale! Haha

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 11:04PM
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Truthfully, I just think you have a tough situation for you to sell FSBo. I am not opposed to selling without an agent, but trying to sell without being listed on MLS is just...tough. My recollection is that in your area none of the agents will list an FSBo or flat fee listing on MLS.

I know you are trying to save the listing agent commission (since I think you said you would pay the buyer's agent commission). I just think that doing that may be penny wise and pound foolish in your particular situation.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 12:33AM
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Forget the gimmicks. Go with tried and true if you really need to sell the place. Price it at the next level down and then choose a selling agent and put it on the MLS. Yes, it will cost you more than a lawn tractor. But at your price point, it's an essential component to selling. The top 10 percenters in any market are virtually all the "do it for me" crowd, not DIYers.

And wrong or right, most realtors view FSBO sales as a PITA to be avoided rather than just another choice for their client. You're the choice of last resort, never first on anyone's list. And that's not where you want to be when you are priced at the top of your market. If you can't get them in for free food and a looksee, then you'll never get them to recommend your home to a client no matter what gimmicks you try.

In fact, the more gimmicks you try, the more suspicion you are likely to be viewed with. As in, "What the heck is wrong with that house that they've tried so many stunts to sell it?"

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 6:31PM
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"In fact, the more gimmicks you try, the more suspicion you are likely to be viewed with. As in, "What the heck is wrong with that house that they've tried so many stunts to sell it?""

That's what my husband said... he also said "smoke and mirrors!"

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 6:50PM
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I'm not an agent and haven't done a FSBO myself. I think using the tried and true method of putting the listing in the MLS is what's necessary. When we looked at houses last year there were a few that were in the MLS for flat fees but basically FSBO's. We saw them online and asked our agent to show them to us. She did but was annoyed at trying to get in touch with the homeowners directly. The gimmicks may get you attention but not necessarily in a good way. I'd go with the MLS and/or adjust the price accordingly to the market.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 7:14PM
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Good point about the gimmicks giving the wrong (i.e., desperate) impression. We don't need to sell fast, I was just trying to think of attention-grabbers. I guess my OP wasn't clear. While we'd certainly like more showings and calls, the volume is about what we expected based on the price range, so we're not in the "disappointed" camp at this point.

I'd love to be in the MLS, but I'm not convinced that listing with a realtor will sell it any faster. I've been watching all the listed properties in my price range for a year, all listed with realtors, and hardly anything has moved. There just aren't a lot of buyers here in the $500K+ range. We're priced well (based on appraisal), not overly optimistic or anything. We have friends priced $60K below us (listed with a realtor) and their showings are slim as well.

So should I just send another email blast with the same stuff on it? I'd like a "reason" to email them...maybe some updates on our web page or something? I guess I can just be annoying to the realtors, like some of them are to me with their one-size-fits-all "look at my fabulous marketing plan for your house" flyers. The point is to make them remember us, even if we annoy them in the process, right? :-)

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 8:16PM
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She did but was annoyed at trying to get in touch with the homeowners directly.

I don't get this. She'd rather call another agent, wait for them to coordinate with the homeowner, then get back with her to confirm? The direct route seems more attractive to me. I list my cell phone number, which I answer 24/7, answer all their questions, and provide showings at the time they request.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 8:27PM
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When I make an appointment for a showing, I call the third party appointment center, who are open 8:00 - 8:00. I give them the time and day I want to show, and they handle everything from there. They email me, usually w/in minutes with the showing instructions.
I did happen to call a FSBO just today to schedule a showing of his waterfront lot. He actually answered the first call. But his lot is priced at $299,000, when comps show it is worth maybe $200,000. I already know where this is going...
Here is my recommendation to you. When you are ready to do a price reduction, hire a RE agent instead. I can almost guarantee you that a 3% price reduction will do less than maximizing the exposure by hiring an agent for 3%.
As far as emailing agents... I recently got an email from a FSBO doing the same thing as you. My first reaction was "Who in the hell sold her my email address?!"
The agents will not care that you made an update to your website.
You say that there is about 1 property per month selling in your price range in your county. That's good to know. But you need to know also, how many ACTIVES are currently in this price range. This will give you the market's absorption rate. If 12 homes are selling in the market per year, and there are currently 24 homes Active in this market, (my example), the absorption rate would be 2 years. In other words, if the market continues to sell homes at the current rate, it would take 24 months to sell all of the current inventory. How many Actives are in this market? In my example, you have to ask yourself how long can I wait to sell? If it is no more than one year, then you have to figure out how to make your home be one of those 12 out of the 24 that statistically is going to sell over this next year.
Hope this helps you.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 11:37PM
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NC: thanks as always for your frank advice.

Fair point about trying a listing agent before a 3% price drop. It would be a good experiment to test the "exposure" hypothesis. Not that we're anywhere near considering a price drop.

FSBO emails: Realtors don't exactly try to hide their email addresses or phone numbers. It's all about making it easy for people to find you 24/7, no? Would you be similarly offended if a potential buyer emailed you wanting info?

Absorption rate is about a year. Here's my slicing/dicing:
As a reminder, we're listed at $529K
2012 sales to date in the $450-600 range
5 in our zip code, 2 in the adjacent area to the north (which could possibly be used as comps, and are on acreage like us)

Currently 6 listed at 450-500, 6 listed at 500-600

If you tighten it up to 500-550:
3 sold YTD
3 currently listed

On the topic of listing with a realtor, here's my beef/disappointment. I expected that a bunch would contact me and try to talk me into listing. I was and remain open to listening to their pitch for what they'd do that I can't that would sell my house more quickly or for more money. But what I've gotten instead is emails or direct mailings with completely generic sales pitches. One was a 40-page pdf called "my marketing plan for your house" that, contrary to its title, was a completely generic summary of their marketing tactics: web site, TV show (like people watch cable access channels to buy homes), homes for sale freebie books at grocery stores. Another agent has mailed me flyers a few times with a handwritten "here's your sample website" that again, leads to their website about how great they market. Only one has actually called me, did the kind-of acting like she had a buyer, and asked me a few questions. She asked me how I came up with the price, I told her through an appraisal and asked her what she thought of the price, she hedged with "well, I'd have to see the house before I could give a number." I offered our website and a personal tour, and she said she'd call later to schedule a time, but never did. I am completely professional with everyone, not snarky (even a pesky agent might have a buyer).

You know what would impress me and make me actually consider a realtor? Someone that looked at our website and/or paid a visit to our house--we'd happily give personal tours--and then gave us candid feedback on the strengths and weaknesses, and then presented a specific plan for what they'd do that we can't: who our potential buyers are and how they'd target them more specifically. There's the biggest one of the MLS. But if some realtors can sell houses in the current market better than others, they need to explain to me how and why. Maybe some can. But in my (limited) experience of selling 2 past houses, I haven't observed it.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 9:29AM
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I don't know enough about your market to say for certain, but I suspect the realtors figure they can wait until you're fed up with the FSBO process and you can come to them. (Or you'll sell your house.)

From their POV, the best thing they can do is work for the bird in the hand (existing clients) not chase after the bird in the bush. Especially since as others have noted, FSBOs do have a certain reputation of being difficult to work with.

The main advantage from the buyer's POV of a FSBO is that you can eliminate the middle man which should be reflected in a cheaper price. If that's not the case, there's no real reason for someone to do FSBO.

Also, I agree about the marketing gimmicks being well, gimmicky. Especially if your house is at the top of the market, I don't think that's the type of buyer who cares about a free thingie.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 10:46AM
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She did but was annoyed at trying to get in touch with the homeowners directly.

The realtor said it was more difficult to contact the sellers to make an appointment that worked for us and them since they didn't have a lockbox and had to be there. We personally looked at 2 houses like this. Both were uncomfortable to begin with since the sellers were there. One seller followed us around and dominated the conversation about the house and other topics that weren't relevant. It could be due to bad experiences that realtors are going to avoid your house unless buyers directly ask about it. Sending a friendly update email "reminding" them about your house and what it offers isn't a bad idea if you're committed to FSBO. There's a professional way to do it without being a nuisance. Unless you've changed anything you will be regurgitating the facts but you could change how you say it.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 10:53AM
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The process of booking a showing through the agency we used to sell our house was almost instantaneous. I got an email notification. If I didn't approve/disprove within 5 minutes, I got a phone call from the booking department. Most of the time I approved within 5 minutes.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 9:40AM
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It's really a shame you haven't met any more helpful agents. We had our house listed with one agent last summer (6 mo. listing) and were disappointed that we got little exposure, few showings, no offers. But WHILE we were listed, a neighbor (we didn't know him before that) introduced himself to us, offered us a bunch of really helpful suggestions and generally impressed us with both his knowledge and enthusiasm. So this winter, when we were ready to relist, guess who got the listing. He's a very young fellow (in his 20's) BUT he's SO active. He not only had us on the MLS site, but on Craig's, targetted ads on facebook, he was willing to do open houses every few weeks. He told me that EVERY day, he'd sit at his desk and ask himself, what can I do for these people today--and then he'd do something to help increase the chances of them selling. He was actively in contact with other agents, and offered great feedback.

It really does make a huge difference to find a great agent. Not only was ours able to find us a buyer in less than 6 weeks, but he had 7 MORE closings (in a bad economy) in the month following our closing.

Don't give up on the agents. Keep looking until you find one who is: young and hungry, REALLY internet saavy, enthusiastic, who wants your business. They truly can market your home far better than you can since they have more resources than the individual.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 11:01AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Homes priced at the top of their respective markets need "boutique" agents who are in touch with how to market to that segment. FSBO ain't gonna cut it with that demographic. They aren't interested in the hassle. They'll readily pay extra for someone to take away the hassle factor and save them time. Not saying they'll foolishly overpay for a home, but they appreciate the value of the service of their realtor and are not looking to save that % in the first place.

FSBO is for entry level and middle level homes and people who have all the time in the world to sell and are banking on their buyers being from the next level down who want to get into the higher priced segment and are looking for bargains. That is, if the FSBO actually uses the "savings" from not using a realtor to price the property lower. If the price doesn't reflect the fact that you're not paying commissions, then there really isn't any type of incentive for a buyer to look at your house. Especially if you aren't on the MLS to be able to be seen anyway. It's lighting a candle in a windowless room if you're not on the MLS. Yeah, you get great light in the room, but the person out in the wilderness looking for direction home will never see it.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 12:05PM
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Holly's got a point Weedy -- Are you in your market's top tier? (Hard to tell from price alone...) In our area (top tier) the only sellers who go FSBO are clearly selling 'tear-downs' to builders. Even then, many go through Realtors. There was only one non-tear-down FSBO that sat on the market forever (still sitting) when everything else around them sold within 90 days.

If you think your listing price could go up another 3%, you might want to consider hiring a Realtor. You'd pretty much have to pay the buyer's agent either way, so really it's only 3% more. And all the pre-sale and staging work you've done will absolutely pay off either way.

Heck, even *interviewing* potential listing agents could be a good way to get exposure for your house...

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 6:47PM
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We're at about the 90th percentile of home prices in the area. Not tip-top, but definitely up there. My barometer friend with the house for sale through a realtor said their showings have been virtually nil for the past month or so, and that the ones before that had houses they needed to sell first. All her feedback has been that the price is good, there just aren't a lot of buyers. So I'm not sure that getting listed in the MLS would immediately bring us a slew of potential buyers.

Interesting point, sweeby, about gaining exposure by inviting agents individually to preview for a potential listing. I guess I'd feel a little dishonest telling them I was thinking of listing with them when at this point I don't have that intention. But let's say I decided to do that. How would I go about figuring out who to target/invite? There are 700 to choose from. I've been asking for referrals for a year and a half and none of my friends have spoken enthusiastically about their realtors. I have thought of figuring out who the agents are that work with relocating buyers the most...any ideas how to find who they are?

And "only 3%" adds up to $15K. That's not pocket change in my world. That's 15 months of carrying costs on the house ($1000/mo interest). If I felt like there was something worth $15K being offered, I might bite. But I'm not seeing it.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 8:34PM
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BTW, I should update on the tractor gimmick idea. We noodled it around and decided to paint a 4'x4' sheet of plywood with "FREE HOUSE with purchase of tractor" on one side and "FREE TRACTOR with purchase of house" on the other. We parked the big ol' tractor right out front and used the bucket to hold up the sign.

Our thought behind the wording was to make it light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek, rather than desperate sounding, so people would pay attention and get a laugh out of it.

BTW, to those who worried that it would call attention to the work involved in caring for a few acres, Mr. Weedy reminded me that people know that without it being pointed out to them. And there are some higher income people that enjoy putzing around moving dirt. I personally know a doctor and 2 execs in that category, and a 3rd exec that's expressed interest in our tractor when we move. Not everyone wants 3.5 acres. Our house won't appeal to those. But no sense trying to "hide" an "irremediable defect." We'll just wait for the people that see it as a benefit.

So back to our free tractor campaign. Mr. Weedy, who was working outside much of the day, reported that first of all traffic on day one of the golf tournament is heavier than he's ever seen it and that virtually EVERYONE is slowing down to look at the sign. :-)

So we're achieving the goal of grabbing people's attention. We'll see if results in more flyer-taking or website hits or showings. :-)

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 8:46PM
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You rock, Weedy! I agree with your DH's line of thinking, and I think y'all came up with a winning campaign. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 9:34PM
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I would call the human resource departments of the hospitals and big companies in the area and ask which agents they suggest to new Dr.'s and executives coming into town. The agents tend to be super connected and the bonus is that their clients are usually buyers with tight time frame.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 8:27AM
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Heh heh, just got a call from a local TV news station that saw our tractor stunt. Mr. Weedy's headed back from a handyman job to talk for a few minutes on camera.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 11:03AM
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Wow. TV. THAT is great marketing. good job!!!!!!

Maybe contact the newspaper and let them know about the TV story. they often go after the same stories these days.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 11:38AM
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Too funny Weedy! I just had to chime in and let you know that I'm totally with you on you trying to sell it at first. I feel like there is an overwhelming "debbie downer" tone to FSBO. We are planning on putting our house on the market soon. We are going to give it 3-4 weeks to try and sell it on our own and then look into a realtor. The realtor we'll probably end up using? The only realtor 1)who brought 2 clients through the last time we tried to sell as FSBO and 2)her clients were very interested potential clients. And to those who say "it's only 3%" (for our agent -we've always been willing to pay 3% to the buyers agent)-when you're already taking a huge hit on price every dollar counts. When we listed our house before (Flat fee MLS)people told us that realtors wouldn't look at our house. I couldn't believe it -who were they working for: themselves or their buyers? If our house matched their client's desires why not? But, indeed I have come to find out that (for the most part) that statement is true. Also-it's an awful real estate market so why aren't realtors doing more to drum up business (ie: dropping their commission to 2%)?
All of those realtors to choose from and yet none of them has taken the time to see if they could woo you over enough to list your house? I don't blame you for staying the FSBO course :)
Keep us posted on the TV story :)

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 2:48PM
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Something to think about (and I'm not at ALL in the price range for this house) when buying a house recently? I didn't rely on my agent at ALL to find me houses to look at. I went out onto realty austin, redfin, etc. A few different websites that I could search to find houses that fit my requirements. Made a list of which ones I liked. Then drove by them and crossed off ones that I didn't like from the outside. I also researched HOA requirements and dropped HOA neighborhoods that we could not stomach those. And then asked my agent to contact (list) of houses, we'd like to go check them out.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:48PM
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On finding agents, here is how I've done it when I don't have a personal recommendation:

I look on the MLS which shows houses that sold within the last 2 years as well as current listings. I look for agents who sell a lot or have a lot of buyers in the area in question for properties of similar type. If there is some agent or agents that are dominant in the area I will definitely contact them. If no one is dominant, then I look to find those who are active in the area for similar properties. Then I do searches for that agent and see what turns up. I particularly look at their own web page. By the way, if they do a lot of corporate relos as a buyers agent you can generally figure that out looking at their web site. I look at their current listings to see what I think about what they say on listings, how the photos are, and just how active they are. Based upon all that, then I narrow it down to a few and invite them to talk to us and tell us what they suggest. For example, on the property we plan to soon list we narrowed it down to 3 agents. One agent hasn't returned a call from a few weeks ago. Obviously, that agent is crossed off the list. Agent 2 had a number of suggestions on how to market the property and what we should do. That was appreciated. However, what Agent 2 did not do was actually respond to the question we asked and how the agent would price and market the property if we didn't do what the agent suggested (which would have cost $30,000 to $50,000) and instead sold the property without us putting a huge sum of money into it. Agent 3 did exactly what we asked and gave us suggestions based upon what we indicated we planned to do. Agent 3 did give feedback on other options as well, but was the one who was most responsive to the questions we asked. So, it is fairly easy decision to go with Agent 3.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 4:37PM
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